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Canadian Solar shares surge despite ugly Q1 results

Canadian Solar Inc. on May 30 reported its first unprofitable period in almost two years as revenues fell 66% in the first quarter. Company executives and financial analysts were prepared for even worse results.

The solar panel-maker and power plant developer warned in March that sales were likely to suffer due to a confluence of factors, including factory upgrades, foreign-exchange losses, the timing of certain project sales and a decline in equipment prices. As a result, first-quarter revenues could fall to between $450 million and $480 million from $1.42 billion a year earlier, Canadian Solar said. Analysts expected sales around the midpoint of that range, according to the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus estimate, which was based on responses from four analysts.

The company just beat guidance with revenues of $484.7 million as module shipments exceeded expectations. Net losses attributable to Canadian Solar totaled $17.2 million compared to income of $43.4 million a year earlier.

Despite the red ink, Canadian Solar's shares were up 9.72% to $19.41 in trading May 30.

The company said May 29 that it signed its biggest deal ever, a contract to supply 1,800 MW of solar panels to EDF Renewables North America for projects in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. EDF Renewables North America is a subsidiary of EDF Group affiliate EDF Renewables Inc.

"Overall, we exited [the first quarter] in a strong business and financial position," Canadian Solar CFO Huifeng Chang said on an earnings conference call. "We'll continue to carefully manage our pipeline in order to secure the highest return for ... our assets."

Canadian Solar has a pipeline of late-stage projects totaling about 3,400 MW, which it expects to start selling off beginning in 2020. For a time, the company worked to assemble a portfolio of projects as it considered launching a separate company focused exclusively on operating existing assets. It started backing away from that strategy several years ago after the yieldco business model fell out of favors with investors.

Chang said May 30 that the company's resources are better suited to project development rather than ownership "because there are a lot of people in the world [whose] capital cost is much lower than ours."

Also on May 30, Canadian Solar said it appointed an interim chief executive while Chairman, President and CEO Xiaohua Qu recovers from an accident.